Christ & Postmodernism, Feeling & Reason ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, July 31, 2006

Christ & Postmodernism, Feeling & Reason

I read this mind-catching paragraph in
John Piper’s preview of the Desiring God conference (The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World (blog)) coming up this fall.

Our aim is to call the church to a radical and very old vision of the Man, Jesus Christ—fully God, fully sovereign, fully redeeming by his substitutionary, wrath-absorbing death, fully alive and reigning, fully revealed for our salvation in the inerrant Holy Bible, and fully committed to being preached with human words and beautifully described with doctrinal propositions based on biblical paragraphs. We love Dorothy Sayers old saying, “The Dogma is the Drama.” We think the post-propositional, post-dogmatic, post-authoritative “conversation” is post-relevant and post-saving.

Piper is adept at cramming sentences with meaning, and a master at revealing the essence of “doctrine” as life-giving spiritual reality. His last comment is a slap in the face of the Emergent Church proper (as opposed to “emerging church”), a pretty widely influential organization these days, composed of leaders who tend to downplay the importance of nonnegotiable doctrines in Christianity.

This will be a provocative conference...and you should probably go.


Loosely related to this Christ & Postmodernism topic was a train of thought I had today. Much of what we call modern “apologetics” (an intellectual defense of faith in Christ) is in response to strong feelings mostly undiluted by reason. Example: The world is filled with awful suffering; therefore God cannot exist. This is “higher criticism” applied on the existential level—and as such, it has a powerful force behind it, and is worthy of some respect.

Deep feeling leads easily to strong conviction, and postmodern culture is quick to imply that strength of emotion need not be tempered by logic. In fact, attempts to query or test instinctual surges of passion are often regarded as a form of mental assault, as if emotional authenticity represents a pure form of argument.

The existential rub is that drinking direct from the fountain of strong feeling is like drinking from the local creek. Bacteria and toxins slosh in. Admittedly, removing them from the water might have been “artificial” in some sense—but this artificiality is a type that humans require.

Likewise, reason is a form of “artifice” that has to be installed in our mind-streams. Otherwise we arrive at conclusions that feel natural but are, in reality, aberrant.

This is why I will sometimes find myself talking like this: True, the world is replete with suffering and evil. But don’t you see that the very nature of your question requires the existence of the Being you intend to obliterate? No one would deny the reality of Evil. But without God, we must jettison this category…

In the end, feeling and reason are an excellent task force for Christ, and Jesus is still solvent in postmodern culture. Not that this comes as a surprise.

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Ched said...

You seem certain of the deletrious effects of feelings over and against reason. I agree. But there is never a place that reason ever wins the day without feeling. When you experienced salvation as God was drawing you to himself, was it due to reason or feeling?

Ariel said...

"But there is never a place that reason ever wins the day without feeling."

You're right. I wasn't so much trying to critique feeling as to note that it can't stand alone, that is, that feeling and reason are an excellent task force for Christ.

The two belong together, and neither in isolation.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife